COLLUSION: Subversion in the UDR. Secret documents reveal:
The Downing Street link / Soldiers armed loyalists / What Downing St knew in 1973

Steven McCaffery, Irish News, 02.05.2006

 

Shock truth of bar killing

UDR came to be seen as carbon copy of Protestant-only B-Specials

Terrible legacy of the past

UDR the top source of arms 'for Protestant extremists'

Subversion report 'no surprise'

 

THE British government was aware of large-scale collusion between security forces and loyalist paramilitaries from as early as 1973, according to documents revealed today in the Irish News.

The files show Downing Street knew that significant numbers of soldiers were linked to loyalist paramilitaries, but failed to act.

The collusion file contains a detailed report on 'Subversion in the UDR' including estimates of the numbers of soldiers linked to loyalists - while intelligence documents show how more than 200 British army rifles and sub machine guns were passed to loyalists.

This is the first time evidence has emerged to show, not only the scale of collusion, but also that government was aware of it early in the Troubles.

The documents reveal that military intelligence:

- estimated 5-15 per cent of UDR soldiers were linked to loyalist paramilitaries
- believed that the ``best single source of weapons, and the only significant source of modern weapons, for Protestant extremist groups was the UDR''
- feared UDR troops were loyal to 'Ulster' rather than 'Her Majesty's Government'
- knew that UDR weapons were being used in the murder and attempted murder of Catholics

Against this background it is significant that as the Troubles unfolded, the government went on to increase, rather than decrease, the regiment's role in areas of high tension in Northern Ireland.

The files date from August 1973 - and in the two years that followed UDR members took part in the Miami showband massacre, and were linked to the Dublin and Monaghan bombings that killed 33 people.

The UDR - or Ulster Defence Regiment - was formed in 1970 to replace the disgraced B Specials police reserve, but nationalists came to see it as a carbon copy.

The new regiment, which was the largest in the British army, recruited exclusively in Northern Ireland and eventually became almost 100 per cent Protestant.

It was merged with another military unit in 1992 to form the Royal Irish Regiment - but it also attracted controversy and its Northern Ireland battalions are now being disbanded.

While the new documents concentrate on the UDR, they also include files that show senior political figures making disturbing references to wrong-doing within the ranks of the RUC. The Irish News has had exclusive access to the documents and over two days of special reports will reveal the content of the files which - for the first time - form a paper trail stretching from murder on the streets of Belfast, to decision making at No10 Downing Street.

The UDR saw 257 members and former members killed by republican paramilitaries, and in today's coverage a UDR veteran recalls her memories of death and terrible injury.

On the new intelligence files, she says that if the British government knew of wrongdoing, "they should have done something''.

The new documents were discovered by campaigners probing allegations of security force collusion in the murder of their loved ones.

The son of one victim recounts uncovering the collusion files, and tells The Irish News: "It was quite alarming to find that the British government at the highest level knew, as they put it themselves, that there was `subversion within the UDR'.

"They knew that it went as far as getting guns for loyalists, and involvement in murder.''

 


SHOCK TRUTH OF BAR KILLINGS

Thirty years ago a gun and bomb attack on a south Armagh pub killed three people. Now a bereaved relative is establishing the truth of what happened. What he has learned may force a rethink of the history of the Troubles.

TREVOR Brecknell got to see his new daughter before he died. It is one of the few things his killers could not take from him.

After visiting his wife and two-day-old baby in hospital, he drove to Donnelly's bar in Silverbridge.

It was the evening of December 19 1975. Nearly Christmas. Trevor, 32 and now a father-of-three, was surrounded by friends and relatives, and a sing-song was under way.

Within minutes he was among three dead. Six people were injured, including Trevor's brother-in-law who was shot five times, and his sister-in-law, who survived being shot in the head.

The loyalist gang killed 24-year-old Patsy Donnelly first - shooting him as he pulled up to the petrol pumps.

One survivor recalls what happened next.

"I heard a banging outside then the door was kicked in. Shots were fired into the bar.

"Trevor and I were sitting opposite the door. It had a heavy spring on it and it slammed back in the gunman's face. He broke the glass panel with his gun and began firing through the broken glass.

"Trevor just slumped forward beside me without saying a word. I got shot twice and fell to the floor. Everyone else was huddled in the corner, with the man still shooting."

Michael Donnelly (14), the bar owner's son, died when the gang threw in the bomb shouting: "Happy Christmas you fenian bastards."

Another witness later said he recalled "hearing a blurred figure laughing" as he fell to the ground.

In recent years Trevor Brecknell's eldest son, Alan, has pieced together what happened that night and has learned that security force members were among the gang.

"There was always an allegation of security force involvement," he says.

"I grew up believing it was as little as making sure that the roads were kept clear. In more recent years it has been confirmed to us by the police that there was a member of the UDR, a reserve RUC officer and loyalists from Portadown involved in the attack. The UDR member was subsequently killed by the IRA in 1976 and it's been alleged he was involved in a number of other incidents including the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. His name was Robert McConnell."

It was not until the more positive atmosphere that followed the ceasefires of the mid-1990s that the families bereaved at Donnelly's bar felt it was safe to begin to dig deeper into the events.

During a business trip to Derry, Alan knocked on the door of the Pat Finucane centre - the human rights group named after the solicitor killed in a conspiracy between the state and loyalist paramilitaries, the full truth of which is still emerging.

They helped gather statements from those connected to the tragedy at Donnellys and issued an appeal for the RUC officer who led the original investigation to come forward. He agreed to meet them.

"His opening comments to us were, 'I have no doubt that there was collusion between members of the UDR, RUC and loyalist paramilitaries on the attack on Donnelly's bar'.

"While we maybe knew it in the back of our own heads, it was still shocking to hear from an official source," Alan says.

The relatives did not have the names of those believed to have been responsible but they lobbied the authorities and took court action to force more information into the open.

Alan eventually became a res-earcher for the Pat Finucane Centre, forging close ties with Justice for the Forgotten, representing those be-reaved in the 1974 Dublin and Monaghan bombings in which 33 died.

The two groups sent a team to scour the mass of paperwork in the public records office in London each time new government files were released under the 30-year rule.

UDR members have been linked to the Dublin-Monaghan bombings and the Donnelly's bar attack, so when one of the team discovered a document entitled 'Subversion in the UDR', they all took notice.

"This is the most significant thing we have found at any stage.

"It was quite alarming to find that the British government at the highest level knew, as they put it themselves, that there was 'subversion within the UDR'," Alan says.

"They knew that it went as far as getting guns for loyalists and involvement in murder."

Alan now knows that more than two years before his father's death British authorities were aware that large numbers of UDR members were connected to loyalist paramilitary groups, and were the "only source of modern weapons" for loyalists. The government, nevertheless, expanded the regiment's role.

He is shocked, but says it is also a positive step on his journey.

"It is official; it settles that part of the story now. No-one can say it's the rantings of Alan Brecknell or whoever. It's official."

The files he helped discover have now been passed to the police Historic Enquiries Team to help shed light on other cases.

Trevor Brecknell was from Birmingham but none of his English relatives attended his funeral.

His parents were told Trevor was killed by the IRA and it would not be safe for them to cross the Irish Sea. The RUC is blamed for the false information.

"That to me is unforgivable," said Alan suddenly struggling to hold back tears. "Granny Brecknell died not knowing what really happened to her son."

 


TERRIBLE LEGACY OF THE PAST

Republican violence took a heavy toll on the ranks of the Ulster Defence Regiment. One former member was among those who counted the cost ...

MEMORIES of the Troubles revisit Reatha Hassan every night. "I have to take a pill to get to sleep," she says.

"I have dreams. There is one where I see someone strangling another person. I never witnessed anything like that but it must have something to do with my experiences."

The sitting room of her home in the Co Armagh village of Markethill is filled with family photographs. Sun streams through the window.

It is peaceful but the past is never far away.

The former civil servant joined the UDR in Armagh in 1973 and took up a welfare role in the regiment. Throughout 22 years of service, she was frequently touched by death.

"You had to go out to the homes and break the sad news to the widows, wives and mothers.

"It was difficult. But I find it more difficult, believe it or not, now, thinking back. You seemed to get strength in those days."

Today she chairs a victims group that includes security-force families. The ages of its 500 members are surprisingly diverse, stretching from 80 to eight.

Mrs Hassan has seen the impact of violent bereavement rippling down through the generations, where young children, who never knew the Troubles, still feel the pain, or the resentment, radiating from older relatives.

"I always say we might be victims of the past but we should not become prisoners of the past," Mrs Hassan says.
The years of violence hold disturbing memories for her. Many of the more than 60 UDR members killed in her area were neighbours or friends.

Private Paul Sutcliffe (24) was a Lancashire-born soldier who joined the UDR in 1989. Mrs Hassan remembers teasing him over his mop of dyed blond hair.

"It wasn't a good colour," she says. "I remember saying to him, 'Sutcliffe if your mother could see you'."

In 1991 he was patrolling in a UDR Land Rover when the IRA deployed a new weapon, a horizontal-firing mortar. Witnesses said the vehicle was "ripped apart".

Mrs Hassan was asked to identify the young soldier's remains. She was warned to prepare for the terrible smell.
"When I went into the room I smelt nothing, but I remember his hair - it was all scorched and curly, tight to his head."
Years later she was in a clothes shop in Newry at the time of the foot-and-mouth crisis when a girl behind the counter remarked at cattle being burned on her farm.

"I remember she said: 'I can't get the smell of the burning flesh out of my nose', and all of sudden I could smell young Sutcliffe in that room."

Recalling the UDR members murdered in her area, she recounts example after example of death and near-death.

"He was at home reading his Bible when they broke-in and murdered him...."

"One fella had lost his leg and the other man was very bad with blast holes...."

"From the office I could see young soldiers practising carrying a coffin, knowing the next day their friend's remains would be in it...."

Similar UDR stories are recorded in 'Legacy of War', a booklet published by the Conflict Trauma Resource Centre.

A former soldier recounts training his children to answer the front door by standing to the side of it and shouting 'who's there?' He noticed his 11-year-old grandson is now doing the same.

Others recalled the trauma of burying friends, or explained how soldiers received no 'deprogramming' for the civilian world and so still live restricted lives, obsessed with security and unable to trust others.

There is also anger. One former soldier says: "We knew who was involved in the IRA, not them all now but a fair few, and it would have been so easy to have went and took revenge..."

That soldier said he acted within the law but others did not.

There were UDR members who were directly involved in paramilitary activities.

Mrs Hassan says that if such crime went on "it must have been well hidden".

"I never served with, or knew anyone involved in anything like that."

She adds: "If things like this come out, and they're true, I honestly can't believe it."

If the government knew of wrongdoing, she says "they should have done something".

"There must be a certain amount of evidence there but the whole 22 years I was in the UDR there were two occasions on which I heard [soldiers] were charged. They were put out [of the UDR] and had to pay for their crimes in prison."

The former UDR and RIR member says her colleagues were trained to preserve life.

"I think in the back of most people's minds was hope for a better, peaceful country.

"You took it that the IRA, or whoever it was, were out there to kill the people... but it would never have meant that you should kill."

She hopes for a return of power-sharing government and stresses the need to build a new future.

"You'll never forget the past but I think it's now time for people who really want peace to go for it and commit themselves to it.

"I would hate to see those things happening again."

 


UDR BECAME SEEN AS CARBON COPY OF B SPECIALS.

THE discredited 'B Specials', an exclusively Protestant part-time police reserve, was abolished in 1969 following its role in the violence of that watershed year.

In 1970 the Ulster Defence Regiment was formed to replace it and would become the largest regiment in the British army. The UDR was to recruit solely in Northern Ireland but came under Ministry of Defence control and sought to attract Protestants and Catholics.

Unionists lamented the passing of the B Specials but nationalists came to see the UDR as a carbon copy. Nevertheless, around 18 per cent of initial recruits were Catholic. However, the 'Subversion' document in today's Irish News confirms that membership "continually declined" and in August 1973 was "just under four per cent".

The UDR started with 4,000 soldiers but grew to 6,300, with half serving as part-time members. The regiment became a favoured target of the IRA, which helped to drive down Catholic numbers. Republicans killed 197 serving UDR members and 60 former members - a death toll that Protestants viewed as a sectarian attack on their community.

Unionists blamed UDR wrongdoing on a few "bad apples" but that argument withered in the face of a catalogue of sectarian incidents - including murder. Complete figures for criminal activity by UDR members were never disclosed but by 1991 it was admitted that 17 were convicted for murder.

Nationalists said it was the tip of an iceberg, claiming offenders simply left the regiment before appearing in court, while collusion with loyalists accounted for an unknown number of illegal acts.

In 1990, after large amounts of security files were passed to loyalists, John Stevens, who later headed the Metropolitan Police, launched the first of three inquiries into security force collusion with loyalists.

As with the Stalker/Sampson inquiries investigating the RUC in the 1980s, his findings were not made public.

Ten members of the UDR were charged as a result of the probe, while the regiment is believed to have come in for serious criticism in his report.

On July 1 1991 the Queen visited Northern Ireland after a 14-year absence, and performed the ceremonial 'presenting of colours' to the UDR.

Later that month it was confirmed the UDR was to merge with the Royal Irish Rangers, a regiment with a 300-year-old Irish connection.

The head of the British army in Northern Ireland conceded the UDR had a "perception problem", and declared the new 'Royal Irish Regiment' a sea-change.

The army said the UDR was 96 per cent Protestant but 30 per cent of the Royal Irish Rangers were Catholic, many drawn from the Republic.

Four months later, however, it admitted that it had made an error, confirming that only six per cent of the Royal Irish Rangers were Catholic.

Unionist MP David Trimble later revealed that only 83 of the 1,413 Rangers came from the south and he objected to the use of the word 'Irish' in the new title: 'Ulster' was more appropriate. He estimated that one per cent of the new regiment would be Catholic.

IRA attacks on the UDR continued against the new 'RIR' with the same ruthlessness, killing seven soldiers.

In addition to this, revelations linking RIR soldiers to loyalists ended any hopes of a new beginning.

In August 2005 the British army announced there was no longer a military requirement for RIR battalions in the north, confirming their disbandment.

The 3,000 troops involved will have access to a £250 million redundancy package.

 


UDR THE TOP SOURCE OF ARMS FOR `PROTESTANT EXTREMISTS':

The collusion file obtained by The Irish News is made up of several documents, but the most important is a 14-page paper stamped 'secret' and entitled: 'Subversion in the UDR'. This is a detailed summary.

THE document was compiled by British military intelligence and a covering letter written by a brigadier indicates it is a draft being circulated among senior colleagues.

He writes: "In view of the MoD's responsibility for the UDR, including its internal security, I believe that you will want to have the opportunity to comment on the paper before it gets into JIC channels."

The JIC, or Joint Intelligence Committee, provides top-level intelligence assessments to the prime minister and other government ministers.

Formed in 1936, the JIC recently came to prominence for its role in compiling the dossier on Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq.

The brigadier's letter, dated August 1973, ends: "As you will see the paper is largely factual.....The paper gives an estimate of the percentage of men in the UDR who are, or have been, members of extremist Protestant groups. The evidence on this is by no means firm and further research is in progress. This is the one point in the paper on which Commander UDR is not entirely happy."

The document itself begins by explaining it is based on the "evidence and intelligence available to us".

Its research is said to have included a questionnaire sent to UDR headquarters and army intelligence and security departments, personnel files, weapons loss reports, intelligence reports and visits to UDR battalions.

The document continues: "Since the first days of the UDR the dangers of raising a local force from the two communities, at a time of intercommunal strife, has been clearly recognised, and each applicant has been subjected to a security vetting process.

"However, following the impetus given to the recruiting of Protestant paramilitary and extremist groups by the imposition of direct rule, (the UDA in particular was estimated to have a strength of 4,000 - 6,000 members in Belfast plus 15,000 supporters by September 1972), the problem of divided loyalties amongst UDR recruits became more marked. Joint membership of the UDA (which had objectives incompatible with those of HMG [Her Majesty's Government]) and the UDR, became widespread, and at the same time the rate of UDR weapons losses greatly increased."

The report defines subversion as including:

- "Strong support for, or membership of, organisations whose aims are incompatible with those of the UDR";
- "Attempts by UDR members to use their UDR knowledge, skills, or equipment to further the aims of such organisations."

But it goes on to note: "The discovery of members of paramilitary or extremist organisations in the UDR is not, and has not been, a major intelligence target.... it is unlikely that our intelligence coverage of this area is in any way comprehensive."

This is followed by a crucial section, stating: "Despite the improvements in the vetting of applicants, it seems quite unlikely that the security vetting system, or subsequent intelligence material, can reveal all the members of subversive groups who have applied to join the UDR.

"It seems likely that a significant proportion (perhaps five per cent - in some areas as high as 15 per cent) of UDR soldiers will also be members of the UDA, Vanguard service corps, Orange Volunteers or UVF.

"Subversion will not occur in every case but there will be a passing on of information and training methods in many cases and a few subversives may conspire to 'leak' arms and ammunition to Protestant extremist groups.

"The presence within the UDR of members of extremist groups does, however, contain within it the danger that at some future stage, if HMG's actions were perceived to be unfavourable to 'loyalist' interests, those men could act as a source of information, training and weapons for their fellows and might even work within the UDR to make it unreliable."

Under the heading, 'Loss of Arms and Ammunition', the report continues: "Since the beginning of the current campaign the best single source of weapons, and the only significant source of modern weapons, for Protestant extremist groups has been the UDR."

It then sets out the "details of UDR arms losses for 1972/3", carrying two tables detailing the UDR weapons gone missing during the period. The table of information for 1972 covers three categories of weapons.

For 'SLR' - self-loading rifle, also known as a semi-automatic rifle - it says that 102 were lost or stolen at UDR armouries or from soldiers on duty, but notes that 62 were later recovered after a loyalist raid on Lurgan UDR base detailed later in the report.

It adds that a further 38 SLRs were lost or stolen from UDR soldiers at home or on their way to work and remain unaccounted for.

For SMG - submachine gun - it notes that 24 were lost or stolen at UDR armouries or while UDR soldiers were out on duty and records that eight of these were recovered. A further four submachine guns are noted as having been lost or stolen at home or on the way to work and remain unaccounted for.

For pistols, it records that 22 are unaccounted for.

The document concludes, therefore, that in 1972, almost 190 semi-automatic rifles, submachine guns and pistols were lost or stolen from the UDR, with 70 recovered.

The document adds: "By comparison, Regular Army weapons losses in Northern Ireland in 1972 were six SLRs, one SMG and nine pistols."

A second table of figures covering the first seven months of 1973 notes that the UDR has shed a total of 28 semi-automatic rifles, submachine guns and pistols, all of which remain unaccounted for.

It adds: "By comparison Regular Army weapons losses in Northern Ireland in the same period were two SLRs, nil SMGs and six pistols."

The document continues: "We believe that the vast majority of weapons stolen from the UDR during this period are in the hands of Protestant extremists.

"In the case of the weapons stolen from UDR armouries and from the UDR guard detachments disarmed at a polling station (7 March 1973) and a key point in Belfast (7 Nov 1972) there is a substantial body of intelligence to support the view.

"The question of whether there was collusion by UDR members in these thefts is a difficult one. In no case is there proof positive of collusion: but in every case there is considerable suspicion, which in some instances is strong enough to lead to a judgment that an element of collusion was present."

The document then gives detailed accounts of three such raids.

The first incident is described as, "The arms raid on the HQ of 10 UDR at Lislea Drive (14 Oct 72)".

On this Belfast raid, the document reads: "14 self-loading rifles and a quantity of ammunition were stolen from this location, when armed men 'overpowered' the Camp Guard.

"The raid was well organised and was carried out by persons who had prior knowledge of the unit layout and de-tails of guard arrangements.

"It subsequently transpired that the guard commander on the night of the raid had nine previous convictions for deception and had spent a period in jail.

"He had been arrested in September 1972 for riotous behaviour outside Tennant street RUC station following the shooting of two men by security forces in the Shankill and the arrest of a UDA leader.

"He had one UDA trace and three separate reliable rep-orts subsequently indicated that he was a member of the UVF. The initial security report into the incident concluded that it was probably carried out with 'inside help' and that it was possible that 'one or more members of the guard had prior knowledge of the intended raid and actively assisted in its prosecution'."

The document then rec-ounts a major raid in Co Armagh.

"The arms raid on the UDR/TAVR [territorial army] centre at Lurgan on 23 Oct 72: At about 0420 on the morning of 23 October 1972 members of 'C' coy 11 UDR, and 85 Sqn, 40 (Ulster) Sig. Regt. TAVR on guard at the Kings Park Camp in Lurgan were 'overpowered' by a number of armed men and 85 SLRs and 21 SMGs were stolen.

"It is apparent that the raiders found rather more weapons in the armoury than they had bargained for and within a matter of hours 63 SLRs and eight SMGs had been recovered close to an abandoned Land Rover.

"Of the 22 SLRs and 13 SMGs that were not recovered, 16 and 11 respectively were the property of the UDR, the rest of the TAVR.

"One of the concluding paragraphs in the Provost Company (RMP) investigation of the incident read as follows: 'It is quite apparent that the offenders knew exactly what time to carry out the raid. Had they arrived earlier they may have been surprised by returning patrols and had they arrived later they may have been intercepted by the Tandragee power station guard returning from duty. The very fact that all the guard weapons had been centralised and there was only one man on the gate, a contravention of unit guard orders, was conducive to the whole operation. The possibility of collusion is therefore highly probable'."

The document then recounts the theft of "UDR weapons" from Claudy RUC station on October 30 1972.

That night the unmanned station was broken into and four UDR submachine guns were stolen.

"The circumstances of the raid indicated that the raiders knew both the layout of the building and the presence of the weapons. The security section report on the incident was unable to discount the possibility of collusion by a member of the UDR or the RUC."

The document says "the possibility of UDR collusion in arms raids by Protestant extremist groups exist in at least two further cases".

It cites the theft of eight SLRs and ammunition from a UDR guard at a polling station in east Belfast by six to nine armed men in March 1973 and says that five months earlier 14 SLRs and ammo were taken from a UDR key point guard by eight men "themselves armed with self loading rifles".

The report adds: "It may be of interest that shortly before the polling station incident, two men had strolled past the sentry and told him that they would return in a couple of hours 'to steal your guns'.

"Thus in a series of four arms raids 121 SLRs and 21 SMGs have been taken from armed UDR/TAVR defensive guards by well briefed gangs who knew what they were doing, without a shot being fired in anger, or any significant attempt made to resist. It is difficult to resist the conclusion that members of the UDR were party to these incidents.

"The circumstances in which some weapons have been stolen from UDR soldiers at home or on the way to work has also aroused suspicion and it is likely that a number of these raids or hold-ups were carried out with the foreknowledge of the subject."

On the leakage of UDR ammunition to "groups such as the UDA and UVF", it adds: "It is almost impossible to estimate the quantities involved. Similarly there have been a number of reports of UDR soldiers giving weapons training to UDA, UVF and OV extremists: the scale of this training is not known."

In a further significant section, the report continues: "There can be little doubt that subversion in the UDR has added significantly to the weapons and ammunition stocks of Protestant extremist groups.

"In many cases ex-UDR weapons are the only automatic and semi-automatic weapons in their possession.

"Neither the British army, nor the minority community has yet experienced the full force of these weapons, for many are in store.

"Several have, however, been used and there is strong evidence that they have been in the hands of the most violent of the criminal sectarian groups in the Protestant community.

"One of the Sterling SMGs stolen from the Lurgan UDR/ TAVR centre was recovered in the Shankill on 21 July 1973 in the possession of three men, two of whom were known members of the Shankill UFF/UVF group: they had just robbed a bar.

"Research at the data reference centre has subsequently indicated that this weapon has been used in at least 12 terrorist outrages, including the murder of a Catholic, and seven other attempted murders (details are at Annex E)."

The Irish News has obtained a copy of "Annex E".

It details how the weapon was also used in a kidnapping, while the 'seven' attempted murders referred to involve drive-by shootings at groups of Catholic youths, that could have led to a large number of deaths.

The document adds: "It is a statement of the obvious that circumstances may well arise in which all the weapons stolen from the UDR may well be used, perhaps against the British army. They would form a most significant part of the armoury of the Protestant extremists."

It then considers circumstances that might render the UDR "unreliable".

"The ability of the UDR to carry out its duties has been compromised on only a very few occasions to date by the activities of disloyal or subversive soldiers.

"It does not require great mental agility, however, to conceive of circumstances in which subversion in the UDR might become a much greater problem.

"There are two possible situations in which elements of the UDR might well cease to be reliable.

"a: Should the Assembly fail and future Westminster plans also meet with no success, it is possible that the future leader of a 'Loyalist' political party might well declare a 'UDI' [Possible reference to a 'Unilateral Declaration of Independence'] for Ulster in an attempt to return power to 'Loyalist' hands. In these circumstances the loyalty of UDR members to HMG would be sorely tried, particularly if required to play any part in military activity against 'Loyalist' groups.
"b. If at any time it became a feature of HMG policy, perhaps under a labour government, to encourage early and substantial progress towards the setting up of a powerful council of Ireland, or towards the achievement of a United Ireland, the reliability of elements of the UDR would be brought into serious question. If the latter policy objective were to be undertaken by HMG it is conceivable that a large number of UDR soldiers would desert taking their weapons with them."

Under 'Conclusions', the document states: "The danger of subversion in the UDR, by comparison with other British Army regiments, is enormously heightened:

a) By the circumstances in which it was set up
b) By the communities from which it recruits
c) By the task it is expected to fulfil
d) And by the political circumstances that have prevailed in the first three years of its existence.

"It goes without saying that the first loyalties of many of its members are to a concept of 'Ulster' rather than to HMG, and that where a perceived conflict in these loyalties occur, HMG will come off second best.

"So far this division of loyalties has not been seriously tested but already disquieting evidence of subversion is available.

"We know comparatively little, from an intelligence point of view, of subversion in the UDR. Often what intelligence there is, is of a 'post facto' character.

"But despite our limited sources and the limited evidence available to us a fair number of UDR soldiers have been discovered to hold positions in the UDA/UVF.

"A number have been involved in overt terrorist acts.

"It is most unlikely that our intelligence coverage presents anything like the whole picture of infiltration of the UDR by the UDA and other groups and there is no immediate prospect of it doing so."

The report continues: "It is likely that there remain within the UDR significant numbers of men (perhaps five to 15 per cent) who are, or have been, members of Protestant extremist organisations.

"Subversion in the UDR has almost certainly led to arms losses to Protestant extremist groups on a significant scale. The rate of loss has, however, decreased in 1973.

"Subversion in the UDR may well have been responsible for materially adding to the reservoir of military skills amongst Protestant extremists and it is likely that there remain in the regiment men who would be willing to engage in further arms raids should it be thought necessary.

"In most cases our intelligence on stolen arms has been limited to ascertaining blame after the event.

"Except in limited circumstances subversion in the UDR has not compromised its ability to carry out its duties. There are, however, a number of predictable political circumstances in which the regiment might not only suffer a much higher level of subversion than at present, but in which elements of it might cease to be reliable.

"There is no substantial threat of subversion from republican extremists.

"The evidence and intelligence available to us on subversion in the UDR is limited, and there are large gaps in our coverage.

"Improvements in intelligence would certainly help weed out subversive and troublesome men.

"But by the nature of its being, and the circumstances in which it operates, the regiment is wide open to subversion and potential subversion.

"Any effort to remove men who in foreseeable political circumstances might well operate against the interests of the UDR could well result in a very small regiment indeed."

 


SUBVERSION REPORT 'NO SURPRISE':

THE 'Subversion in the UDR' document is accompanied by four letters of response from very senior officials.

And although the document is described as a draft, it is significant that none of the letter writers disagree with its contents.

One goes so far as to say he wishes he "could say the contents came as a surprise, but cannot", and fears that the report will raise questions "once it has reached No 10".

A top military figure writes that the vetting of UDR recruits is "only a screening procedure" and "has no relationship to normal security vetting carried out on people who require to have access to classified information".

He reveals that the additional requirement for recruits to provide a reference had "been successful as part of the PR exercise", but is open to abuse and "can add little" to the screening.

A second response recommends changing the language of a number of paragraphs, but says: "I have no reason to dissent from the conclusions of this paper".

A third reply suggests that the report's author offer "wider coverage" on the "85-95 per cent not thought likely to be members of Protestant extremist organisations".

The same intelligence officer asks if more work could be done to identify UDR units that should be disbanded in the event of a reduction in the size of the regiment being proposed.

He then suggests extra research be carried out, adding, however: "You may consider that the submission of the paper, particularly in view of its depressing content, should not be delayed."

A final letter of response on the report, penned by a senior MoD civil servant, reads: "I wish I could say that its contents come as a surprise, but I am afraid they do not."

He adds that until further "hard evidence" is available: "I would agree with the doubts expressed by Cdr UDR about the validity of including the percentage figures shown as estimates of the proportion of UDR involved now or in the past in Protestant extremist groups."

There is no indication as to whether or not the author acted on the request to have the five to 15 per cent figure removed.

The civil servant finishes by writing that if "it begins to look fairly definite that the draft will become a JIC approved paper", it should be circulated more widely among officials before it is passed on.

"This would enable them to be prepared to some extent for the questions which, I would guess, are bound to follow once it has reached No10."

 

[Were you or a member of your family affected by incidents outlined in these documents? If you wish to discuss this information you can contact The Irish News on 028 9033 7544]

Part 2/ 03.05.2006
Part 3/ 12.05.2006
Part 4/ 15.05.2006

 


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Declassified Documents

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